- Wednesday, February 14 2001 -
Kentucky - 103 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 22nd by AP]
|J. P. Blevins||11||1||2||1||2||0||0||0||2||2||0||1||0||0||0||3|
Tennessee - 95 (Head Coach: Jerry Green) - [Ranked 15th by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 50, Tennessee 39
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|Mississippi State 76 - 57|||||Vanderbilt 79 - 74|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Stephen John; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats hold off Vols
"We came here for a win, and came away with a win," said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith.
The Kentucky Wildcats were blistering the nets all night long in Knoxville, building a 19-point lead over their arch-rivals, the Tennessee Volunteers. But coach Jerry Green's Vols did not go down without a fight. Behind tough pressure defense, UT would come back and a Vince Yarbrough basket with 1:35 remaining would pull the Volunteers to within just two points of Kentucky at 95-93. But the Wildcats, who had shot just 9-18 from the free throw line to that point, would nail eight straight free throws to hold off the Volunteers. Kentucky won the game 103-95, completing a series sweep of the Vols for the first time since Kentucky's 1998 Championship year. Tayshaun Prince scored a career high 30 points. For the Cats, it was their 12th victory in their last 14 games, placing the Wildcats firmly in the driver's seat in the SEC East race, a full two games ahead of Florida. Tennessee, who was playing without injured, all-SEC guard Tony Harris, was handed its first home loss in its last 19 games at Bowling Arena. The last UT home loss was a 76-73 decision against Vanderbilt on January 12, 2000.
"You have to give credit to Kentucky tonight. They had a nearly perfect first half. We can't give up 100 plus points at home and expect to win," Tennessee Coach Jerry Green said, "we just gave them too many open shots. But they played awfully good."
"We knew coming into the game that if we were going to win, we were going to have to play very aggressive and contest every shot," said coach Smith, "We got a little comfortable at the end. Yarbrough hit those three straight threes and they made a big run at us. We are playing well but we still have to learn how to finish a game and get that killer instinct."
The Wildcats shot 61% from the field (36-59) and 66% from three-point range (14-21). "The shots were really falling tonight for me and the entire team," said Tayshaun Prince who was 9-13 from the field, 6-7 from three point range and 6-6 from the free throw line, "The kind of team we have, when we shoot like that, it's hard to stop us." Keith Bogans also played extremely well, scoring 22 points for the Cats.
"Tayshaun has just been playing so well," coach Smith remarked, "He really came out and did a great job with his all-around play. He played only 28 minutes. That's a great night. I was pleased that we held our composure well with Tayshaun out of the lineup, but we are a much better team with Tay."
Tennessee's Vince Yarbrough would open the game scoring the first six points of the game, helping the Volunteers build an early 12-3 lead in the opening 3:30 of the game. But over the next five minutes, the Wildcats would rip off a run of their own, outscoring the Vols 19-4, taking a 22-16 lead. The Cats would build on that lead throughout the rest of the half and went into the lockers with a 50-39 lead. The Wildcats went 10-15 from three point range for the half. The ten three pointers matched the highest number of threes versus the Vols this season. The Cats finished with 14 buckets beyond the arc.
The Wildcats would open the second half in much the same manner as they had ended the opening period. The Vols tried to get back into the game, but when Saul Smith hit a three pointer to put the Cats up by 14, at 66-52, the Volunteer crowd booed their team's effort. It would get worse before it got better. At the 12:40 mark, Tayshaun Prince hit a three-point attempt to take the Wildcats' lead to 19, at 73-54. The pro-Tennessee crowd was stunned. The rout appeared to be on.
The Vols nibbled into the large Kentucky lead over the next eight minutes but the Cats still held a commanding 15 point lead, 92-77, with just 4:40 remaining. And that's when the wheels began to come off for Kentucky. Over the next minute and a half, Ron Slay scored four straight points and Harris Walker nailed a three point shot. Isiah Victor would score and the Cats' lead had been trimmed to just 93-86 with 3:11 remaining.
Walker and Victor would continue to cut into the Wildcats' lead and the full-court pressure defense of the Vols caused a number of Wildcats turnovers.
Then, with just 1:56 remaining to play and the Cats holding on to a slim 93-89 lead, and event occurred that may have turned the momentum back toward the Wildcats. Keith Bogans missed a shot and he and Tennessee's Ron Slay went for the ball. A struggle occurred and Slay wrestled Bogans to the floor in front of the Kentucky bench, flipping Bogans over in a wrestling hold in the process. Players from both benches mobbed the scene, which resulted in a personal foul on Slay, his fifth. Bogans made both free throws. "It all came down to a boiling point. He and Keith went for the ball and he went over Keith's back," coach smith said, "Slay gave Keith a little 'extra.' I thought our players did a good job of handling that situation on a hostile floor, telling them we just aren't going to tolerate that kind of reaction."
Coach Green had his own concerns with the incident. Injured guard Tony Harris, sitting on the bench in street clothes, raced to the spot of the incident, obviously angry, "It concerns me a great deal that Tony left the bench," Green said, "We tried to keep that from happening, but what goes through his brain that sends him down there, I don't know. I'll have to look a film to decide what to do about it. It concerns me that a leader and a senior would do that."
With 1:40 remaining, Yarbrough hit a bucket to bring Tennessee to within just two points, at 95-93. But freshman Gerald Fitch would make a big play, with a key offensive rebound and was fouled, hitting both free throws. On the next play, Tayshaun Prince blocked a shot by Jenis Grinstad and Saul Smith came away with the rebound. Prince then hit six straight free throws down the stretch to hold the Vols at bay and close the game out.
The Volunteer bench was just 8-23 from the floor.
"I thought the turnaround in the game came very early, when we came back from being down 12-3 early," coach Smith said, "we were doing things well at first, but we kept out composure and hung in there and that's what good teams have got to do."
"We got some great play from Bogans and Prince tonight," Tubby Smith said, "Both those guys really stepped it up. And I also think we got some really good minutes from our bench. Estill played well, Marvin Stone had some great moments and Cliff gave us an excellent 8 minutes."
Freshman Gerald Fitch turn in yet another gutsy performance, scoring 11 points and leading the team with 11 rebounds, including 6 on the offensive glass, "It just shows you the heart and the courage that this young man has. He gets down there and mixes it up with the tall trees. He doesn't just stand around on the perimeter. He gets in there and doesn't mind getting his nose bloodied. He's a real blue-collar worker with ice water in his veins."
Jason Parker hit all five of his field goal attempts, including some monstrous dunks, but missed 4 straight free throws, finishing with 10 points. Saul Smith chipped in with 9 points and 8 assists, playing injured, "I was really glad to see Saul playing well, "coach Smith said, "I told him that we needed him to get out there and be a leader."
The Wildcats are now 16-7 overall and 9-2 in the SEC. Tennessee fell to 18-7, and 5-6 in SEC play. The Wildcats travel to Nashville on Saturday, February 17, to take on Vanderbilt.
Marvin Stone (#24) battles Tennessee's Charles Hathaway (#55) for a rebound
Keith Bogans and Ron Slay battle for a loose ball